Moving On Out

The blog this week was written by Sandy Roethler, Community Participation Assistant at The Arcadia Institute. I recently started working at Arcadia Institute. I have both professional and personal experience that I hope will benefit me as I try to do my work here, creating opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in the community and make their own decisions.

Housing is one important aspect of community life and personal choice, and one that hits close to my heart. My son turns 18 soon, and the subject of moving out has been a recurring discussion in our family. We are all conflicted about it. We (parents) want our son to be more independent, to enjoy the freedoms of living without parent supervision, and to learn and grow as a human being. And, not unimportantly, we want to reclaim our privacy and marriage! At the same time, we are nervous about how he will fare out in the big, wide, sometimes scary world without us. Finally, we know that despite the stress of living with him, we love him very much and will miss having him around.

Our son wants to live with us “forever.” His word. He says he is afraid to be without us, he knows it will be a lot more work, and that he likes where he is. He acknowledges that most people do not live with their parents forever and that he would probably have more fun without us “always telling him what to do.” Yet, he says he is not ready to move out, and that he doesn’t want us to push him out.

I have to remind myself that moving out will be good for him, and for us. And I know he is going to love it. In order to reassure us all, though, we need to know what housing options are available and what will match with our needs, and our son’s interests and goals.

Traditional housing options for people with developmental disabilities include various kinds of group homes, where services are linked to the specific house. Because group housing has been readily suggested by school and mental health professionals, we didn’t even realize there were other options. However, there are other living arrangements to consider, such as living alone or with a friend in a house or apartment, with support people providing help when needed.

Some things to think about when choosing a residence might include the following:

• Meals. Does the person cook? Will meals be prepared by someone else? Can mealtimes be varied to accommodate the person’s plans? • Bedtime and quiet time. Is the person an early bird or a night owl? Does he or she like quiet in the evenings or prefer a regular lights-out time? • Activities. What kind of activities does the person like to do? Will he or she enjoy having someone plan a lot of activities that keep them busy? Will his choice of activities be honored and supported? Will she enjoy recharging at home often without having to go somewhere because others in the house go? Will the activities help the person engage with others in the community? • Housemates and friendship. Does the person make friends easily? Is he or she introverted or extroverted? Would he or she rather pick their own housemate or do they like meeting new people? How will disagreements be handled? • Other issues: personal care, mobility and transportation, medications, money management, etc.

The good news is, with the right kind of supports, people can live where they like, and with as many roommates as they want, of their own choosing. People can choose what to eat, when to go to bed, and how to fill their day.

People with disabilities and their circle of family, friends, and other care providers must consider what they want and what they need. Meal preparation, personal care, mobility and transportation, medications, money management, work and free-time activities all need to be considered. Supports can be designed to provide help when and how the person needs it, regardless of where they live.